Last month, I contacted each of the candidates hoping to be elected mayor of Rockford on this Tuesday. Each candidate agreed to participate in my attempt to help inform voters by answer a series of six questions which I intended to feature in a voter’s guide. As of today, only one candidate answered my questions. At beginning it was never my intention to give any one candidate any more time or space than the other. I was not intending to make a public endorsement. Being new to Rockford, I wanted to inform myself and those who ask me for my advice as to which candidate to support. Each campaign was sent the exact same questions at the exact same time. Only one candidate responded so this is the only candidate this blog will feature (unless either Mayor Morissey or Mr. Hughes decides to send me their answers).
The only candidate to follow through with their commitment was Republican Michael Kleen. Ironically, I ran into Mr. Kleen while running some errands this afternoon. So, we had the chance to chat for just a few minutes. I found Mr. Kleen to be engaging and willing to chat with a crazy political stalker like me. He listened to what I had to say and made sure my questions were answered. He shared with me his desire to listen to his constituents and hear their needs. From my experiences with him, this seems to be genuine.
Below in bold are the questions I sent to each candidate. Mr. Kleen’s answers are in italics.
Forbes magazine recently rated Rockford among the most miserable cities in the United States. What is the other side to this story? What does Rockford have to offer those who may consider moving here and how would you seek to strengthen those positive aspects of our city?
Rockford has a number of positive things going for it, things like affordable housing, beautiful parks, quality museums, low traffic congestion, and a variety of independently owned shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, high tax rates, crime, crumbling roads, and under performing schools tend to overshadow those strengths.
In order to allow Rockford’s good qualities to shine through, the city needs to provide a clean and safe environment, well maintained roads and infrastructure, and easy to follow rules and regulations so entrepreneurs can thrive. Additionally, I will give our police department the manpower and resources they need to get tough on crime and change the perception of Rockford as a violent city.
By focusing on those fundamentals, we can make sure that visitors see all the great things our city has to offer.
Crime is certainly one of the biggest issues our city now faces. We have heard potential solutions tossed around such as geo-policing, number of street lights, and more cops on the beat. What steps are needed to keep our people safe?
I consider crime to be our number one issue, and the safety of our community is my number one concern. Geographic policing is a good idea, but only if we have enough police officers to do it correctly. Right now, the city’s police department is well below authorized strength. We need to fill those positions immediately. I will not wait three and a half years to suddenly become concerned about hiring more police officers. Here are some more ideas on how we can reduce crime in Rockford:
- Replace the current police chief. The police department should be overseen by someone who has the complete confidence of his or her fellow officers.
- Restrictions on loitering, panhandling, vagrancy, graffiti, and vandalism should be strengthened and more vigorously enforced.
- Every effort should be made to identify and concentrate policing on hot spots of crime. Police should maintain a visible presence in these areas, including the use of foot patrols. Increasing foot patrols downtown and around commercial districts will lead to a safer environment in those areas.
- Citizens should be empowered to better defend themselves, their families, and their property. Upstanding citizens should be recruited into a citywide program to teach them the skills they need to reduce crime in their own neighborhoods.
I do not support state sanctioned same sex marriage. Because the County Clerk issues marriage licenses, however, I do not know whether there is anything the City of Rockford could do in the event same sex marriage was legalized in Illinois.
As mayor, I will be an advocate for the people of Rockford, and I will use that office to promote the interests of all our citizens, not just a select and powerful few. The mayor is the top level manager of one of the largest employers in the city. I believe in collaborative management and will offer a consensus building approach to solve problems. I will work to maintain positive relationships with city departments, employees, and their representation. When the mayor has a good relationship with city staff, operations run more smoothly and services get where they are needed. I will work to implement a professional development program for current staff to help them continue to improve and provide even better city services.
If I am able to implement all my reforms, I hope to see a great deal of progress in fixing some of the fundamental problems that have plagued Rockford for the past thirty years. No one can honestly say they would be able to turn everything around in four years, but we can make a lot of progress by getting our priories straight. I want to see us dropped from Forbes’ list of “most miserable places to live.” By focusing on getting crime under control, fixing our roads, cutting government waste, and being more careful about how we spend our tax dollars, we can achieve this simple goal.
When voters find themselves in the booth, ballot in hand, what is it that you hope they remember about your campaign?
When they are in the voting booth, I hope voters will remember that I am a regular guy and a concerned citizen just like them. I don’t have any powerful friends or business connections. My only motivation is doing the right thing for the people of Rockford, and I will walk the walk. After four years, if I am unable to make any progress in fixing our city’s fundamental problems, I will step aside and let someone else try. All I ask is for voters to give me a chance to try things a different way, because what we have been doing for the past eight years has not been working.
You can learn more about the Kleen campaign, check out his website – www.citizensforkleen.org.